Resolution with American over my broken laptop

I’ve received several emails over the past few weeks regarding my laptop incident on American Airlines. As some of you may recall, I was flying from Dallas to Miami and the flight attendant spilled orange juice on my laptop. I have a MacBook Air which features a solid state drive, and unfortunately if liquids reach the solid state drive the computer is more or less dead.

I was very calm about the situation and the flight attendant was incredibly apologetic, and even commented that she felt even worse that it happened to someone that was as understanding as me about the situation.

I asked her to request that somebody meet the flight to follow up regarding the issue. A lot of people gave me a hard time over this, saying it was a “DYKWIA” move (which wasn’t the intent), but frankly I was just doing what I’ve observed from previous experiences. While I’ve never had such an issue happen to me, I’ve observed similar issues happen to others, from spilling wine on an expensive t-shirt to Bose headphones being damaged by a flight attendant, and in each instance a supervisor automatically met the flight.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that you can’t trust an airline’s word unless you have it in writing, so that was my goal by having someone in a position of authority meet the flight. I knew otherwise I’d more or less be pushed around and on my own. I also knew if the incident wasn’t documented almost immediately the chances of getting it resolved would decrease exponentially. I don’t think an email to customer relations a day after the incident would have gotten me anything but a form apology.

With that in mind, here’s what happened after making it back home. American’s Twitter team put me in touch with their risk management department, who contacted me within two days regarding my issue. They asked me to ship in my old laptop and they would reimburse me for a replacement. I was somewhat concerned about sending it in since I have lots of data on my laptop that I didn’t want to compromise, and at least in theory I assume someone could recover it.

I went to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store and asked what they would recommend, and they offered to physically remove the solid state drive, so that I could send in the laptop without it. I emailed the person at American to ask if they’d be alright with that, and after a couple of days they responded that they were fine with that. So I went back to the Genius Bar to have it removed, and the sent in the laptop with the power cord and manual.

They’ve promised me that the check is being processed (both for the laptop and my cost incurred shipping it to them, which I thought was generous), and they tell me that it will likely take at least 30 days till they get the check (since they’re in Chapter 11), and then they’ll send it to me.

So assuming that the check does eventually arrive, color me impressed.

The logical question many of you are probably asking is whether or not I got that resolution because I’m a blogger or not. I don’t know. I’m sure the speed with which I got a resolution has something to do with that, though I’d hope that they would solve this in a similar manner for everyone else as well. Based on what I’ve heard, even those that aren’t bloggers or that don’t have a lot of followers on Twitter still get their issues solved pretty quickly with airlines and hotels when using social media.

What did I learn from this experience?

  • ALWAYS close or move your laptop when you’re being served on an airplane.
  • Get documentation of the incident as soon as you land. Flight attendants can file a report on any airport computer, so have them do that as soon as you land, and make sure you get the case number, as well as their name and/or employee ID.
  • I’ll stick to it, no matter what others say: request a supervisor immediately, because these cases are so rare that most employees really don’t know how to handle them. I was pushed around from the gate to the Admirals Club to baggage claim to customer relations at the beginning, and it wasn’t until I was put in touch with someone higher up that I got any sort of a resolution.

So there you have it, that’s my update for those of you that were wondering.

Filed Under: Advice, American
  1. On the “ALWAYS close or move your laptop when you’re being served on an airplane.” I actually ask FA’s (very politely of course) “could you please go around my laptop with that drink?” I’ve flown just as much as anybody and have never had an issue. I get a few looks, but honestly I see more and more UA FA’s going over the backs of the seat in front of me to pour or deliver drinks.

  2. For what it’s worth, I really don’t think what you did was DYKWIA. You did what you needed to do, especially after you were clearly inconvenienced by the airline. If you don’t stand up for yourself, who’s going to?

  3. You’re like 22 right? What “sensitive” information could possibly on the drive? Just admit you didn’t want to give up your porn collection.

  4. So I assume you have a backup laptop or had to buy a replacement at the Apple store when you had them remove your hard drive? Great to get ‘taken care of’ but still hard to work these days without a working laptop!

  5. What you did (asking for somebody to meet you at the gate) is not DYKWIA. Rather, it’s what an informed consumer would do. I agree with the steps you’ve taken and will use as template if something similar happens to me.

  6. it was DYKWIA. Similar thing happened to me and I took as many pictures as I could plus video which helped me big time to score much more than what I asked.

  7. You’d been just as screwed even if it wasn’t a MacBook Air. Logic board(ie. the part that contains CPU, GPU, everything important) is the one that dies and essentially means a new computer. I’ve actually recovered all my data from an SSD after killing my MacBook Pro’s logic board with a drink of coke…

    Let’s hope AA does it right in the end. 🙂

  8. Colpuck, not sure if you’re aware but he runs a business where he has to have usernames and passwords for FF accounts that may have hundreds of thousands of miles and itineraries that can be easily cancelled. I don’t know about you, but I consider my UA MP account with 300K+ miles and a nearly impossible to beat MR (cpm wise) amongst other trips sensitive data.

  9. – Or get a Lenovo Thinkpad, which feature keyboards that let fluids run through the computer without damaging it. But I know it’s futile to tell a Mac-owner to buy a Thinkpad.

  10. A flight attendant on a recent Delta flight insisted that everyone in my row close their laptop while drinks were being distributed. Minor nuisance for the assurance that this scenario wouldn’t happen. But I don’t think it’s a company-wide policy.

  11. I would say persistence might have had more to do with it than being a blogger.

    I stayed at a St Regis last year and a maid shattered the glass screen on my iPad. Long story short their insurance denied my claim because it was their word against mine. I called multiple times saying I was platinum and appalled by the response. Tweeted them and received a review from hotel management team but still no dice. Finally called two more times and they agreed me to write a check for the replacement value after I explained how much I spent at SPG properties the previous year for work.

    If I hadn’t been so persistent they would have written me off but similarly it paid off (oddly they didn’t ask for any receipt or proof of cost…). I think the manager was tired of speaking to me.

  12. “The logical question many of you are probably asking is whether or not I got that resolution because I’m a blogger or not. I don’t know.”

    Come on, don’t be naive… of COURSE it helped get the resolution you wanted. if you wanted to actually see how AA handles these things when you don’t have any internet weight, you should have not published anything until the situation had resolved itself – and if you wanted to contact them on twitter, do it under an alias.

  13. @ colpuck — Do you know what I do for a living (other than blog)?

    @ Nathan G — Fortunately I purchased an iMac not too long ago, and had everything transferred to that computer at that point. Other than that, my data on my MacBook Air wasn’t recoverable. I did buy a new MacBook Air shortly thereafter.

    @ Joe — I spoke to someone at customer relations that contacted me regarding both the laptop incident and the bad service on the flight between Miami and Madrid, and they offered me 10,000 miles between the two incidents. I thought that was fair.

  14. OMG Colpuck, you’re such a troll.

    Lucky does consulting in addition to his award bookings, so all that information would be on his laptop. Not to mention files (incl. emails saved to the drive) involving personal matters.

    Maybe if you were 22 that would be all you would have on your laptop, but if you can’t understand why he’d need the SSD removed from his laptop, you’re stupid.

  15. @ Jack — I’m not trying to evluate American, but rather only provide a follow up based on what lots of people have been asking me about.

    @ Joe — Like any other rational human being, my goal in this situation was to get a resolution as quickly as possible by whatever means possible. I travel a lot and being without a laptop is near impossible. Like I said, I’m just providing a follow up regarding something I’ve been asked about a lot.

  16. If you could do it over, would you have purchased ADH (Accidental Damage from Handling) coverage for the laptop?

  17. Lucky, why didn’t you reach out to AA privately and keep the entire matter between you and AA while it was happening?

    I think the DYKWIA syndrome came from how you handled the matter socially and professionally.

    Hopefully after reviwing the comments you received during, afterwards and now you can probably look back at the situation and handle it a little differently than how you did. I think Jays comments above are on target here.

  18. Yeah, i am super careful when they are serving drinks, especially during boarding. But where i have had bad luck lately are my seat mates. Obviously not intentional, and in one case only water, but folks just do not seem to pay attention these days.

    And can frequent travelers please try to be a bit less trashy in the lounges, perhaps keep their feet on the floor, not on another chair, and maybe police their trash when they leave, and wipe down their table with a cocktail napkin when they leave.

  19. @ Tom — I’m not sure how expensive that is. Typically I take great care of my stuff, so I don’t purchase “insurance.” The companies offering the insurance policies usually come out ahead, and worst case scenario it’s not like I can’t afford to replace my laptop. So I probably wouldn’t.

  20. @ Jack — Perhaps I should have. If I could do it over I might direct message American on Twitter instead, but frankly in my experience social media is damn powerful. If you need to get something done in a short period of time, social media is the way to do so.

  21. I hadn’t really thought about the issue much, but maybe I should to be on the careful side.

    I’ve always had flight attendants pour my beverages away from my computer in the aisle so that they don’t spill on it–smart move.

  22. I wouldn’t consider asking the FA to have somebody meet to your flight as a DKYWIA move. On a PWM-ORD UAX flight in F, about two years ago, one of the FAs dumped a whole tray of drinks on a passenger. Naturally, he apologized until landing, handed out some skykits, and must have had the Captain contact dispatch to ask for a supervisor when we landed. Once the door opened, the supervisor was standing by the aircraft door, ready to greet the guy (who was pretty pissed).

  23. Similar thing happened to me with a much better outcome. Delta asked me to gatecheck my backpack and I left my old laptop in it. When I got to Sacramento I found out the screen was crushed. The redcoat appreciated my calm demeanor (it was an old dell laptop), asked me how much I paid for it (I didn’t lie), then offered me $200 over that, pointed me to a best buy, I bought a baseline model MacBook air, and he cut me a check right then and there. I love delta.

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